The Best Baked Beans slow-cooked in a naturally thick brown sugar molasses sauce with a tangy and sweet smoky hickory barbecue flavor. A classic barbecue side dish to serve at picnics.
A homemade baked beans recipe with bacon using dried navy beans soaked in water then baked slowly in the oven in an insanely delicious sweet sauce made with molasses, brown sugar, hickory smoke flavor, apple cider vinegar, and water.
Making a tasty bean recipe like my authentic Red Beans and Rice recipe means the beans need a lot of flavors cooked into them while they continue to soak up the liquid and soften. That’s why making your baked beans from scratch using dried beans is the best way to achieve outrageous deep flavors that you’ll never completely find in canned brands that steam their beans using water and no sauce.
This deep molasses brown sugar sauce is even richer in flavor than Bush’s canned baked beans. While I love the general flavor of this canned condiment, my Boston baked beans recipe tastes nearly identical but will rival the standard canned version with a much deeper flavor that’s rich in taste.
HOW TO MAKE BAKED BEANS FROM SCRATCH
- Soak dry navy beans in water for 8-12 hours.
- Cook for 1½ on the stovetop; drain.
- Make the sauce with molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, hickory smoke flavoring, seasonings, water, and bacon and stir into beans.
- Bake in oven at 300°F for 2½-3 hours.
SERVING BAKED BEANS
Barbecue Baked beans are a classic picnic summer side dish recipe staple. I make these brown sugar molasses beans for summer holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, and just about every other family party. I’ll also make a from-scratch batch when our family plans to grill out a lot of food for the week. Bring baked beans to a covered dish party in a dutch oven, crockpot or rice steamer and keep warm before serving.
BAKED BEANS INGREDIENTS
- NAVY BEANS: Dried navy beans are traditionally used in baked beans. Soak the beans for 8-12 hours or overnight in water.
- BACON: Use thick bacon and cook it until just light in brown color. Add bacon grease to the beans for extra flavor that will naturally thicken the sauce.
- BROWN SUGAR: Sweetens the sauce. A savory-sweet flavor that adds a brownish reddish color baked into white beans with a sweet tangy sauce flavor.
- MOLASSES: The most important flavor in baked beans. Molasses adds a rich sweetness to the beans and thickens the sauce. No corn syrup is used in this recipe.
- MAPLE SYRUP: Traditionally made with maple syrup in the United States, maple syrup is used in combination with brown sugar and molasses.
- KETCHUP: A small amount of tomato flavor deepens the sauce flavor.
- HICKORY LIQUID SMOKE: The secret ingredient to creating a smoky flavor without all the work of a grill. You’ll find this flavor in Bush’s Baked Beans, too.
- APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: Cuts through the sweetness and rounds the flavor with a tangy taste.
- SEASONING: Mustard powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic flavor well with the sweet sauce.
Baked Beans Questions & Tips
What kind of beans should I buy to make baked beans? Dried navy beans. You’ll find these in a small package next to other dried bean varieties.
How do I know when the beans are done? Beans are done cooking when they are soft to eat, but not mushy.
The beans are not done cooking and it needs more liquid. Simply stir in 1/4-1/2 cup cooked bean water or fresh water into the mixture and continue baking.
Can I make vegetarian baked beans? Yes. Simply omit the bacon and bacon grease. No need to substitute it with anything else.
How can I keep the beans warm if bringing to a party? Bring baked beans to a covered dish party in a crockpot or rice steamer to keep warm before serving. Add a little water to the dish and keep it on warm or simply bring in a covered dish.
Serving homemade Baked Beans with other sides and appetizers like this Classic Cornbread recipe is a must! Other favorites that go well with baked beans include roasted vegetables like this Crack Broccoli or Best Ever Brussels Sprouts with ranch. For a tasty side dish, serve with Broccoli Salad, Mashed Potatoes, or a cold and creamy Baked Potato Salad. For a quick and easy dessert to make, I like this Strawberry Shortcake Fluff Salad and this Strawberry Pretzel Salad, and Cherry Pie Salad.
The Best Baked Beans Recipe with Bacon
- 1 lb dried navy beans
- 7 cups water
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- ½ tbsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder (or ½ onion, diced)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tbsp hickory liquid smoke (found near the BBQ sauces)
- 6 tbsp unsulphured molasses (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp)
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ⅓ cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2¾ cup water
- 8 strips thick bacon
- 3 tbsp bacon grease
- ½ cup reserved cooked bean water
- Fill a large pot with water. Pour in navy beans, cover top, and soak for 8-12 hours. I soak mine overnight.
- Drain beans, rinse to remove excess starch, discard water. In a large stockpot, bring 8 cups water and beans to a boil. Reduce heat to slow boil; cook 1½ hours uncovered. More water may be added if needed.
- Drain beans over bowl; save cooked bean water. Return beans to an oven-safe stockpot or a large oven-safe casserole dish.
- Stir in brown sugar, mustard powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, and minced garlic. If using a raw onion instead, save to cook with bacon.
- Stir in hickory smoke, molasses, maple syrup, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and water.
- Bake in 300°F oven for 2 hours, uncovered.
- Cook bacon on stovetop until light brown color but not crispy then cut into chunks. Drain bacon grease into bowl. If using a raw onion, cook for 2-3 minutes then add to pot.
- Stir ½ cup cooked bean water, 3 tbsp bacon grease, and bacon into pot.
- Cook uncovered for 1 hour, stirring halfway through baking.
- TIP: Add more water for a less thick sauce or bake a little longer to make the sauce thicker.